Popular Party pledges curb on use of Muslim headscarf
Immigrant, leftist groups deride "integration contract" plan8 February 2008
MADRID - The Popular Party would restrict the wearing of Muslim headscarves if it wins the general election on 9 March, adding to the plan to make immigrants sign a so-called "integration contract" announced earlier in the week, the party's security spokesman announced Thursday.
Ignacio Astarloa said the PP will soon make public proposals to prevent the Muslim headscarf from being an "element of discrimination."
"We want to defend equality between men and women and stop it from being an element of discrimination in schools or any other place in society," he said. "Practices cannot be allowed to develop that break the central principle of equality between men and women."
The PP's proposal echoes French legislation introduced in 2004 banning the wearing of the Islamic headscarf and other "overt" religious symbols in public schools. That law was widely seen as intolerant of religious freedom in a country that maintains a strong secular tradition.
In Spain, where Catholicism was once the only permitted religion, the proposal is likely to be viewed not just as intolerant but openly racist, especially after the PP argued on Wednesday that immigrants should be made to sign a contract in which they would pledge to "learn the language and adhere to local customs." "For the PP there is no integration only assimilation... these proposals are reactionary and comparable to those of the far right in Central Europe," United Left leader Gaspar Llamazares charged.
"Are they going to expect us to watch bullfighting and take siestas?" quipped Miguel Fonda Stefanescu, the head of Fredom, an association of Romanian immigrants. Many see the PP's proposals as an effort to appeal to white low-income voters ahead of the elections, particularly in working-class suburbs of major cities, traditionally happy hunting grounds for the Socialist Party, but which have experienced high levels of immigration in recent years.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / ANGELES ESPINOSA 2008]
Subject: Spanish news